Feeds

Boffins, Tunnel Tigers and Scotland's world-first power mountain

The hollowing heroes who reversed nature

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

At last... the final cavern

Which brings us to the final cavern, the thing we're here to see. Viewed from above it's a little difficult to fathom the scale of the space, and a good deal of it is held empty against the necessary removal of the turbines for servicing (something which happens every three years, with a complete refit every 15).

The machine hall

The yellow cylinders are the starter, or "pony" motors. The turbines are underneath.

The 15 men who died underground are commemorated in a carved tribute affixed to the side of the machine hall. Visitors aren't allowed in the machine hall itself, we just look down from a viewing gallery high in one end, and photographs are forbidden for fear terrorists could make use of them, so you'll have to take our word for it that it's bloody big in there.

A good deal of the time the turbines sit idle, but when power is demanded they can be spun up in less than two minutes, under a minute if the pony (starter) motor is already spinning.

As we return Ian tells us of the 'Tigers and the life they led, and that one of the deaths wasn't the accident it appeared to be: the chap who kept the gambling book managed to get himself crushed under a truck in suspicious circumstances.

Certainly they were hard men, and the lack of health and safety shortened the life of many more than the 36 it killed as the (now) traditional Irish ditty Crooked Jack reminds us.

But at least they got paid, unlike the prisoners of war who worked on the Loch Sloy (non-reversible) hydro electric scheme a decade earlier.

One tends to think of hydroelectric power as a modern conceit, when in fact Cruachan will soon be up for its Golden Jubilee - Ian is even trying to get some of the Tunnel Tigers back on site this October to record their thoughts ahead of the 2015 anniversary.

Boffins smoking pipes

When men where real men, and boffins smoked pipes even when underground.
Still from Cruachan, The Hollow Mountain, National Library of Scotland

Back in the visitors' centre there are buttons to push and panels to read, courtesy of Scottish Power. Visitors, or their children, can turn a clock to see when power is used and read all about how Scottish Power will supply it - they even have one of their Smart Meters on display.

Having said that, the exhibition, and accompanying video, won't entertain for very long, and while the trip into the mountain is impressively brought alive by Ian's commentary, it lasts only half an hour.

A hike up to the dam isn't difficult, though you cannot set out from the visitors' centre (a short drive is needed) and the climb requires stout shoes and a tolerance for bogs. Walk Highlands has an excellent guide.

The Reservoir

We didn't manage the walk, but James Hearton did and put his photograph under the Creative Commons Licence.

But for the lazy, or offspring-encumbered, the Cruachan power station is more of a marvellous place to stop for a long lunch than a destination in itself. Makes for a very interesting lunch though, and the food isn't bad either.

GPS

56.395284,-5.11591

Post code

PA33 1AN

Getting there

By car: Cruachan Visitor Centre is on the north bank of Loch Awe, 19 miles east of Oban on the A85. By train: to Falls of Cruachan station 200 metres away, with services between Glasgow and Oban.

Entrance

Adults: £6.50, senior citizens/students: £5.50, children: six - 16 years £2.50, under six years are free.
Opening hours:
April - October: 9:30am – 4.45pm, 7 days per week.
November, December, February and March: 10am – 3.45pm, Monday to Friday only.
Closed in January.
Bookings for tours strongly advised; the train station - charmingly named Falls of Cruachan - might be occasionally closed for engineering or maintenance, so if you're travelling by rail, call ahead.

Other resources

Visitcruachan.co.uk

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.